The Alchemist's Code

Dave Duncan, Author
Dave Duncan, Author . Ace $14 (308p) ISBN 978-0-441-01562-7
Reviewed on: 01/28/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008

Slightly overbalanced by dense, lush descriptions, Duncan's elaborate sequel to 2007's The Alchemist's Apprentice finds footing in intricate plots and conspiracies. Able swordsman Alfeo Zeno, a brash young noble serving as Nostradamus's apprentice, provides a firsthand account of murder and romance in an alternate 16th-century Venice. This time the mystery centers around coded messages from an enemy agent, with Nostradamus and Zeno aiming first to crack the code and then to find the spy through a combination of magic and Holmesian investigation and deduction. Zeno's chatty narration breathes life into the city as he describes its political and social structure. The level of detail occasionally stifles the flow of Duncan's prose, an effect offset by the energy of the twisting plot. The only snag is the somewhat superfluous element of the fantastic, which adds little to this tale of interpersonal intrigue. (Mar.)

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